It’s not easy to contact your child’s school to get the help you need to ensure your child’s attendance. The best way to get your questions answered is to call, and calling only works during business hours, which is a significant barrier for working parents. Even if you call, the person best equipped to answer your specific question may or may not be available. Broadly, school districts are resource-constrained. The district-level teams tasked with ensuring students can attend school without barriers are incredibly earnest, but sadly too under-resourced to be able to interact directly with all of the families they serve.
In our modern, tech-enabled present day, you need to meet families where they communicate now. Making it easier to engage with families and students isn’t just a modern convenience; it’s an essential tool in combating chronic absenteeism. 8 million students miss 10% of school days, and this chronic absenteeism is a leading indicator that they’ll drop out entirely. Academic research supports using text messaging to communicate between schools and families about absenteeism: it’s been shown to lead to a 17% improvement in attendance, 38% reduction in course failure, and a GPA increase of nearly one-third of a point.
It’s in this context that I’m excited to announce Spero Ventures’ partnership with AllHere, leading their $8M Series A. I am joining the board of the company. AllHere’s founder and CEO Joanna Smith is far more eloquent in her announcement describing the company’s origin and arc.
AllHere’s mission is profound. The founding vision was to solve chronic absenteeism, and that mission has expanded as relationships with school districts have deepened. AllHere uses a conversational chatbot interface as an intervention to nudge families when absenteeism is detected, help answer questions, and remove barriers to attendance. AllHere’s relationship with school districts and families starts with attendance, and it’s a foothold that helps schools engage with families via chat in all aspects of their children’s education. Being this primary conduit of communication is a terrific business opportunity, and it’s how AllHere will thrive in the years to come.
As a former educator and district attendance and family engagement leader at an East Boston charter school network, Joanna Smith has direct experience with the problem of chronic absenteeism in schools. She founded AllHere as the solution, and her grit in building it has been truly exceptional. The team’s response to the Covid pandemic as an attendance intervention solution when all students across the country were suddenly staying at home was equally remarkable: it helped shape the current product execution of their conversational AI chatbot, and it was built in partnership with the direct feedback from customers at a time when education administrators were just trying to keep their heads above water. If that’s not grit, I don’t know what is.
I consider it a deep honor to partner with Joanna and her team, and I look forward eagerly to the coming years. Big thanks to my colleague Stephen Wemple for introducing me to Joanna, and he will be joining the company as a board observer.
AllHere has long been supported by Rethink Education since the early days, and I’m delighted to be joining Matt Greenfield and Ebony Brown there in their service in helping the company, along with our Independent Director Jeff Livingston and a long list of terrific co-investors.